The weekend started out well on Saturday. Despite some general crankiness to start the day off, the universe seemed to deliver exactly what we needed. A playground that looked like a huge pirate ship, a fish market with an almost bewildering array of live seafood, a beach café with pizza, pasta, salads and French fries, a beach for a quick cooling dip, and a swanky hotel with lush, tropical gardens to explore.
The good luck continued on Sunday when we gave the boys exactly what they wanted: nothing. Given their long school days, they wanted a whole day with nothing to do, except maybe a matinee of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so we delivered. The only family outing was a trip to a Mid-Autumn lantern festival. The Mid-Autumn festival is a big deal around here; people celebrate the harvest moon by eating mooncakes and staying up late. Somehow lanterns are involved in this holiday (try as we may, we can’t find the origins of this), so off we went to check out the display. Given this display was off the beaten path, we didn’t have high expectations, but it was pretty impressive. I don’t think the pictures quite do it justice.
In addition to the Chinese jazz fusion band Doug described below, we procured the boys Angry Bird lanterns - much to their delight (on a side note, a tradition on this holiday is for kids to get lanterns. I guess they used to get real lanterns – paper with candles – but now this has morphed into plastic contraptions that even play music – much to our dismay). All in all, a highly pleasant night.
But, in our minds, this was just the lead up to the main event of the Mid-Autumn Festival: the Fire Dragon dance (I mean – if you check out this link, you can’t help but think it’s going to the AWESOME). For the past hundred years or so (we’re not really sure how long this has been going on as the announcer said this began in 1880, then announced the event has occurred for 110 years, but the sign proclaimed the 132nd annual dragon dance), the village of Tai Hang has been putting on a dragon dance with a huge dragon made up of joss sticks. Sounds awesome right? Well, not so much. First of all, it was hot. Second, it was packed (and 1 + 2 = exceedingly uncomfortable – so much so that a woman in front of us fainted, although I do have to note she was not a local). Third, the lead up to the actual dragon went on and on and on – for over an hour after the “official” start time. When the dragon did finally come out, it was more like a smoke dragon – no fire to be seen – and it didn’t dance so much as run around because it was sooo long – over 220 ft.
After that, we were faced with a long slog home through packed streets and public transportation, leaving us exhausted when we arrived home at 10:30. On the bright side, the locals we did “meet” while waiting were exceedingly nice (they let Berkley and Quin squeeze up to the front of the fence so they could see better and kept an eye on them the whole time), although there were some fierce old Chinese ladies throwing elbows in the crowd. At any rate, the best we can say about the fire dragon dance is that we’ve checked that off our life list. And I suppose that’s to be expected; sometimes you get the least when you expect the most, but you’re really blown away when expectations are low.